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Little Bird Pole Project

Pole, Perfectionism, and Patience

In less than a week I will be performing for Emerald City’s Love is Love show.  It’s an open and free show for folks who are 21+ and I am really excited to perform!

I have been practicing quite a bit and excited that my choreography is complete and all I have left are finishing touches.  It has been an interesting journey putting together a performance and learning how to pole dance in general.  I have had many conversations with my pole teachers and fellow classmates and I have made some interesting realizations.

I am a perfectionist and a destructive one.  

There is nothing wrong with wanting to do things right and doing a thorough job.  However, being a destructive perfectionist is rough because you have no room for failure and obsess until whatever your objective is perfect.  Or you do so much that you burn yourself out.  It’s overwhelming, tiring, and boring.  

This is not a new realization for me rather a chronic condition I manage like seasonal allergies.  My perfectionism stems from anxiety and fear.  In a nutshell, I use perfectionism to avoid punishment and disappointing others.  However, the end result is usually burn out.  The other result is that I do not do or try new things to maintain validation and approval from others. It makes life lacking in creativity.

Okay, so that’s my perfectionist history…now enter pole dance.

The fact that I even decided to try pole dancing was a big deal as our U.S. culture still has certain connotations with this style of dance i.e. “Its slutty.”  My typical perfectionist self would not normally do this as socially people might get the wrong idea.  I could be called a bad mom, slut, etc.  However, I do love fitness and anything physically challenging.  I mean I ran 5 marathons…so why not?  I remember when I first started I did not tell any of my friends because I worried what they might think of me.  

So here I am now performing for the second time.  I post videos and photos of my dancing.  I follow and connect with other dancers.  My life has a source of creativity and expression that it needed.

Pole dancing itself is the best antidote for perfectionism.  Why?  It is so fucking hard.  Everything about it is an exercise in patience.  Learning to grip and move takes time. Building the muscle and strength takes time.  Learning to invert takes time.  The other great (somestimes frustrating) part of pole dancing is that the sport (yes) is that it is ever changing and new moves and tricks are created every day. There is always something new to learn or conquer….wow.  

I personally can’t be a perfectionist in pole.  Nope.  I can practice for 2 hours and leave the studio covered in bruises and still look completely silly and that is okay with me.  Maybe next time I will hit the move or maybe in two months.

Unlike running where you can practice more (double days), pole you cannot practice endlessly because you will just end up injured.  So, here I am regularly improving my patience and letting go of my perfectionism.

I like this new world and shedding my scared perfectionist self. I find myself having more grace and patience with others.  I like practicing and see what I learn even if it does not provide a perfect end result.

XO

LittleBirdKing

Do these heels make me look like a badass?


Full disclosure I have had a love/hate relationship with heels….actually with shoes.  I am 5′ 10″ and have some very long and narrow feet.  In addition, I have sensitive skin so wearing any new shoes is really a process for me.  First of all, finding the right shoes that actually fit my feet and then going through the process of breaking them in which usually involves blisters and calluses.

When I decided to start poling I felt very adamant that I was going to be a barefoot dancer. Heels…stripper shoes were way too slutty and really crossing the line.  Given my shoe history it also seemed like a bad idea to through add some in heels.

Much to my chagrin, here I am almost a year later and its hard for me to pole without my shoes/heels/stilts.  I love them and I am addicted to them!

First of all, pleaser shoes…I know don’t be fooled by the name.  Pleasers just please me because I can throw on a brand new pair, pole, and not have one blister or feel in pain.  Initially, my feet hurt a little bit and I was super awkward in these shoes.  However, over time they feel like second nature.  Conventional pricey fancy heels still feel like hell for me and I avoid them at all costs.  A few months ago, I wore a pair of sparkly Badgley Mischka heels to an event.  It was torture.  Beautiful shoes but not worth the pain.

Poling in shoes is so fun and freeing.  I love the extra height they give me and the clacks they make.  I recently updgraded from 7 inch to 8 inches and my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.  I love the way 8s look and feel.  I also love to be doing exercise and a sport while wearing heels.  

I don’t know why heels equate sluttiness?  I don’t know why I felt so opposed to them initially?  I don’t really feel sexy in heels….I just feel like a badass. 

I also love how heels have helped me shape my dancing style and character.  I have really long legs and the shoes add an extra element furthering shaping my dance.  

I used to think heels were for shorter women.  I used to be so jealous of short women who could wear heels and still be shorter than their dates.  In college I was a big fan of Sex and the City and was so envious of little Carrie Bradshaw in her Manolo Blaniks.  

Wearing heels as a tall woman is scary for a lot of people and its feels weird to tower of your date.  

I am over it and loving my tall heeled pole persona.  She may not be short and delicate but she is definitely a badass.

Success!

About two weeks ago I started to do the V-inversion by myself but I did not believe it actually happened.  My teacher was super excited but I kind of felt dumbfounded.  Fast forward two weeks to class yesterday and the above pictures show the proof!

I am super excited about this accomplishment and taking a moment to celebrate this success.  I feel like I rarely take time to celebrate the successes/wins in life and we should all do this more often.

This inversion represents the conquering of a lot of fear, the development of new muscles, many failures and frustration but most importantly a lot of patience with myself.  

Inverting is a really exciting milestone in my pole journey as it opens the door for more tricks. It is a pretty big building block and I remember being super frustrated that I was not there yet.  I just needed more time!

In class yesterday there where additional moves that we worked on but I was not quite there yet and that is okay!  When I feel like I am not progressing or keeping up with my classmates I think of Greta Ponteralli who competes only with herself.  I am taking baby steps and will be ready to accomplish more as I get more comfortable.

Pole is so physical and mental that usually when I see new tricks I need to watch them about hundred times before I internalize and feel comfortable with them.  I probably over think and analyze too much but maybe this will change over time.  

Who knew that pole could be so mental as well as physical?  It is also ever changing and there are always new things to learn.  I think that is why it gets you in amazing shape.  Your body is always been challenged and learning new things.  You can’t really coast…or maybe you can but I am not at the part of my pole journey.

Speaking of pole journeys, I am about to embark on another one!  I have signed up to do a performance at Emerald City for Pride weekend! It’s exciting and a little scary.  I need to come up with a routine all by myself but I am really ready to dive into it and play with different moves.  I have my music picked out and I am ready to start the creative and physical process.

XO

LittleBirdKing

Fear Not! You are Stronger than you realize

Paddington Bear and I

I made it back from London!  It was a whirlwind trip doing work, managing jet lag, eating delicious food and a little bit of poling.  In summary London was amazing I ate the best pizza and middle eastern food ever.  
Before my trip I managed to attend a Pole Clinic class which was amazing.  During the clinic I worked again on the dreaded V inversion but this time I actually did it!  My teacher was spotting me but really not even spotting me and I did it!  I was and still am in complete disbelief.  I had the strength and the ability to do it but I was scared.  Why?  Because I was afraid!!!

Who knew something like pole could bring to light how much fear I had been living in.  It’s not something I am proud of and its not the way I will continue to live my life.  

What happens when you live your life in fear?  You miss out on being creative and really enjoying life.  Instead you are always waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Waiting to be told you are in trouble…..apologetic and remorseful.  Constantly looking for the bogey man.

What happens when you recognize that you live in fear and move away from it…..a V inversion!  What else happens? Driving over bridges, flying on transatlantic flights, wearing 8 inch heels, making new friends, and opening yourself up to the world.  I have learned that I am stronger than I think, more capable than I realize, more lovable, and resilient.

Dear readers don’t live in fear.  You are strong and amazing.  

XO LittleBirdKing

Traveling Poler

Last weekend I had the privilege of being in New York with my best friend!  This was an incredible trip that was much needed for my heart and soul.

I had the best time seeing the city, seeing the sun (Seattle was cloudy for the last 8 months), eating delicious food, and catching up with my wonderful friend.  
She took me to some incredible places like the Cloisters, Chelsea Market, and Central Park.  The weather was just perfect and I even got a sunburn from a long run we did in Liberty State Park.  

New York is a one of a kind special city.  So much to see! Also, coming from the west coast its amazing how different it is.  Everything feels historic and classic.  I even had a celebrity siting!  Our first night out I saw Ellen Pompeo (Meredith Grey in Grey’s Anatomy).  She was eating dinner across from me with her lovely family.  All I can say is that she is stunning in person and has good taste in middle eastern food.

I also had the privilege of taking a level 2 pole class at Body and Pole.  My teacher was Lara Michaels who the previous weekend won the Pro level USPDF championship (no big deal).  Lara, is down to earth and a really fun instructor.  

There were some moves in the class that I struggled with but she was great with spotting and keeping me motivated.  She has a positive and upbeat energy which is what I needed for working on my inversions.  Overall, I was super impressed with the studio and wish I could take classes there all of the time.  
When I got back from my NY trip I also had the pleasure of doing a one hour private session with Rachele Ribera the pole shoe master!  I recently got some 8 inch pleasers and was super exited to have Rachele guide me in how to walk and dance in them.

I did not think the session would be too physical and I was very wrong!  By the end of the session my ankles were shaking and my legs and arms were tired.  Rachele is so talented at what she does and each class/session I have had with her is hard.  You get your time and money’s worth.  I have to say that every class I have had with her (and really everyone of my teachers) have made me stronger and better.  
I have decided to video more of my poling to watch my progress as well as see the things that I need to improve.  I posted a video yesterday of a great spinning pole combo taught by my fabulous teacher Laura.  The video in no way is polished or fancy.  I can see a lot of mistakes but I love it because it captures a baseline.  I also love my determined and focused facial expressions….this is also something I am going to work on.

Next week I am traveling to London!  I am going to miss my little family so much but am so grateful and excited for this opportunity!  If I am lucky I am going to try to get a pole class in there too.

Much love and Happy Easter!

LittleBirdKing

When in Doubt Leave it Out

Kitten has the right idea!

Not much poling or great poling happened this week.  I started a long term course of antibiotics which I am convinced has impacted my inner ear.  As a result, doing anything on the spinning pole has been tough.  Yesterday I thought I might vomit in class and my energy was just not there.  

My class yesterday was in general mentally and physically tough. At one point, I would have paid my teacher to just let me sleep on the mats.  The poles were slippery and everyone seemed a little sick.

Later in the day, I beat myself up about it and debated whether or not I should throw in some more practice.  I want to get better!  I felt like a complete failure in class and wanted to make it up.  Unfortunately, this inner dialogue was the work of my evil perfectionist gremlin.  This gremlin does not have my best interest in mind and has, in the past, caused a lot of overtraining and injury.

In college my little gremlin talked me into running 70 miles a week.  70 miles of running a week sucks and is a really quick way of breaking down your body.  It also convinced me to run a marathon a day after food poisoning…also not a great idea.  

Fortunately, after being a runner for 20 years and facing a lot of overtraining and evil perfectionist thoughts I have developed another inner guide who has led me away from this path. This inner guide has encouraged me to rest when I need to, take a break when I get frustrated, and to take things “day by day.”  Rome was not built in a day.  Pole dancers do not become amazing right away.  Muscle does not form instantaneously.  In other words “chill out.”

I think in any sport but especially with pole and running it is easy to feel that perfectionist drive to keep going, don’t take breaks, and don’t listen to your body.  A lot of polers get injured and need surgery and I can see where it happens.  There is so much to learn and conquer in this sport.  It is also so physically demanding that hours of practice day in and day out are probably not good.  Your body needs to rest and repair itself.  

I recommend going with the loving approach.  Allow yourself to have the bad days, take the breaks, and do something relaxing.  It is okay and you will not lose your strength or fitness.  If anything your body will thank you and replenish from the much needed rest.  This is also great if you are mentally burnt out from your sport.

Resting allows you to come back energized, refreshed, and ready to tackle those new tricks.  It also allows you to stay in the game for the long haul.  I would rather take a long time to get good at pole so that I can do it in my 60s then get good quickly and need surgery.

Questions and Answers

Roz the Diva….my number one pole idol!

This week I thought I would answer some questions I have recieved regarding pole fitness/dancing:

1. Does pole hurt your hands?

I definitely have calluses on my hand right now but I don’t all the time. When I am working on new moves or grips I tend to see more calluses.  They do not bother me and poling does not seem to ruin my fingernails.  I am able to get a gel manicure and keep it intact for about 3-4 weeks.  In addition to my hands, I also get some bruising. This definitely happens when trying to moves,  holds, climbs, etc.   As I get more familiar with the moves the bruises go away  and I notice new strength where I am executing the move.

2. Are you afraid how people will perceive you?

No. Living your life in fear of others’ perceptions is no fun and lends itself to a boring life.  Life is short and precious.  I don’t want to look back and say “I wish I had done that.”   Also, I remember as a teenager telling people that I wanted to grow up to be an “interesting person.”  

With that said, I am mindful of myself and my family and use my own judgement of what is acceptable.  Some readers were offended by the picture I posted last week.  I took the picture down but I will say I personally did not find the picture offensive.   The move I was executing was 4 months in the making and I was over the moon to do it!  I also took the picture myself and only had 10 seconds to do it.  My only criticism is that I should have had someone else take it and I should have used my crash mats……safety first.

3. What if someone calls CPS on you?  

For what? My three year old son has poled a little bit both with my partner and myself.  We use the crash mats and have both parents present for spotting.  Typically, he is being held/spotted with one parent while the other one watches.  We also have an X-pole that was carefully setup by my partner.  He also routinely checks it for me.

In regards to myself pole dancing, I do not believe it provides an unsafe environment for my child.  I take classes at a studio and practice in my garage.  I also find this question offensive and small minded.   There are many strippers out there who are great mothers. No one calls CPS on mothers because they are strippers. It is a JOB that provides for their families.  I am not a stripper but I would not judge someone who is. 

4.   What does your partner and son think of your pole dancing?

My partner has always been supportive of my hobbies.  When I did improv he attended all of my shows and has cheered me own during my running events. He bought and installed my pole for me. Contrary to popular belief, he does not sit in the garage and ogle while I practice. I think he is more worried I am going to accidentally kick and break one of his bikes.

My son thinks its cool.  He likes to see the new tricks I learn.  We watch tutorials together and he also likes to watch pole competition videos.  

5. Do you pole in heels?

I pole in heels about 75% of the time. When I first started I adamantly did not want to pole in heels. Then I had the privilege of studying with Rachele Ribera.   She is the pole heel master and taught me all that I know of poling in heels.  Seriously,  check her out on Instragram…..AMAZING!  

Now, I love to pole in heels because its fun and they act as ankle weights for toning and strength training.

6. Who are your pole idols?

So many!!!!! I will dedicate a whole separate post to this!

Leave the (body) issues behind

Some just see my butt.  I see muscles that are keeping me safe from killing myself…

Yesterday I did two crazy things: wore tiny booty shorts to pole class (basically underwear) and posted two videos of myself in said booty shorts on Facebook….crazy.

8 months ago when I started poling I was super conscious and sure that I would not be wearing anything scandalous.  I mean I am a mom and have given birth….nothing to see here! I think for my first class I showed up with pants and a tee shirt. 

I knew I wanted to learn how to pole but I was going to keep as many clothes on as possible! However, that doesn’t work too well on the pole.  It is super important that your body sticks or has some grip to the pole otherwise you are in serious trouble.  You need a lot of skin exposure to do climbs, hangs, etc.  Bottom line, its frustrating and unsafe to pole in a snowsuit.

Over the last few months I have seen and more and more clothes comes off and this is not easy.  When I first started taking classes it was super intimidating.  The studio where I pole is filled with a lot of different aerial arts (not just pole) and also filled with aerial athletes who are in super great shape.

In my normal everyday world I do not feel insecure about my body but in the pole world I sometimes feel like a huge awkward clown. I think the issue is far larger than pole dancing or being an athlete in the pole world. My problem is that I am a woman and like every other American woman I have been\am objectified.  Appearance first before everything…that’s how I was raised and that is the bullshit that every woman feels.  I wish and hope there are women in this country that do not feel this.  No expectations for the perfect body, hair, makeup, clothes, etc.   

Like going to the beach (if you don’t wear a wetsuit), pole dancing is a sport where it all hangs out.  You are basically climbing and swinging from a pole in your swimsuit. The other thing about pole dancing is that usually its done in front of a mirror where you can easily judge yourself. So, why am I pole dancing if it is intimidating and makes me insecure about my body?

I am pole dancing because it builds strength and is gloriously fun.  In the beginning it was really easy to get caught up in appearances and I still do!  But….what I love about pole is that even though I am wearing less clothes I don’t seem to notice it as much. I am more interested in how to do a ballerina sprin or the proper way to grib my hands.  I am giving myself permission to wear the clothes that will help me perform and not apologizing if I don’t look like a supermodel doing it.  

I am telling the critical voice in my head to fly a kite because this mom booty has some climbing to do.  I am not sorry or ashamed of my cellulite.  Instead, I am busy building some biceps.

Making it my own


Note: legs pictured above are all thanks to running many many miles!

This week I had a realization that really refreshed my attitude and got me back on the pole.  Why was I being so hard on myself to do an inverted V?  I am a perfectionist and not always patient.  I see others in class nail incredible tricks or I watch fabulous pole dancers on Instragram and take for granted all of the work and dedication involved it nailing a specific move.  What I see are the successes but what I don’t see are the blood, sweat, and tears it took to get to that move.

After much thought and Internet research I figured I am not ready for the inverted V and that is totally okay.  I also realized how ridiculous I was being!  To do an inverted V you need to have a lot of arm and core strength.  Don’t get me wrong I have improved my arm and core strength so much in the last 8 months but my body is not there yet.

My default sport for the last 20 years has been running.  Running is an amazing form of exercise and it has given me some incredible life experiences.  I have run 5 marathons, tons of half marathons, made wonderful friends and pushed myself in ways I never thought possible.  The other thing running has given me are legs of steel and an ass that won’t quit (I’m just kidding I don’t even know what that means).  Bottom line, I have a lot of muscle in my body and like 80% of it resides it my lower half.  So this means that my poor upper half is seriously disadvantaged.  My upper half will get there but I need to be way more patient.  

In the meantime I decided to work on my climbs and really get them polished.  Wednesday and Saturday I had the best poling sessions in a long time!  I even learned how to do a front hook hold.  It was also really fun focusing on making my climbs artistic.  

The other incredible thing that happened was a friend sent me a video of Greta Pontarelli.  She is amazing!  Greta is 66 and started pole dancing when she was 59.  She is incredible to watch not because of her age but because she is a beautiful pole dancer.  

There have been so many times during this journey where I felt too old to start pole dancing but watching Greta I realize that I am completely wrong.  I also love how she competes with herself and does not compare herself with other dancers.  In the video I watched she mentioned that in her first class she could not even get up the pole. This made my want to cry because I have been there so many times and felt an instant bond with her.

So this next week I am going to continue on my journey and focus on my own small successes.

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